County news September 28, 2012

Hamilton-Brown returns to Sussex

Rory Hamilton-Brown has returned to Sussex on a three-year deal following his departure from Surrey. He spent the 2008 and 2009 seasons at Hove before moving to take up the captaincy at The Oval.

Hamilton-Brown developed through the youth system at Surrey and, following two seasons on the south coast, returned in 2010 but, following the death of his close friend and team-mate Tom Maynard, was released from the remainder of his contract to allow him to start afresh in a new environment. That he has chosen to rejoin old friends and colleagues at Sussex speaks volumes for the impression he made there during his first stay.

Amid the din, it is sometimes forgotten that Hamilton-Brown is only 25. While his playing record is modest for one so talented - his first-class batting average is 34.03; his List A average 26.50 - he remains a cricketer of international potential, particularly in the limited-overs game where his waspish, flat offspin could compliment his outstanding fielding and positive batting.

Until the death of Maynard, Surrey seemed to be progressing well - the club won the CB40 Trophy in 2011 with Hamilton-Brown top-scoring in their Lord's run chase - so it may be, in time, that he has another chance to develop the leadership skills that saw him appointed as Surrey's youngest captain in more than a century.

Sussex have a fine track record for mending broken players. Ever since Mushtaq Ahmed arrived at Hove in 2003, a shadow of the bowler he had once been, the club has found a way to coax the best out of men whose enjoyment of the game has ebbed. Monty Panesar, James Anyon, Michael Yardy and Matt Prior are among those to have rediscovered their joy for the game at Hove and, as a consequence, their best form.

But it would be wrong to portray Sussex simply as cosy. The club challenged in all three competitions in 2012 and, over the past decade, have a record the envy of just about every side in the domestic game. They were seeking a replacement for Murray Goodwin, who has been released after more than a decade's sterling service and, under the demanding but benevolent leadership of Mark Robinson, the professional cricket manager at the club, Hamilton-Brown will find an environment in which he can find rehabilitation not just as a man but as a cricketer of whom much is expected.

"Everyone at the club is delighted by Rory's return," Robinson said. "He has had a difficult few months and we believe we can play our part to assist and enable him to look to the future with renewed enthusiasm. He is a very talented cricketer who is yet to reach his full potential, which makes him such an exciting and dangerous player."

Hamilton-Brown said: "I would like to thank Surrey for the opportunity they gave me to captain such an illustrious club at such a young age. At times it was very tough but I am immensely proud of what I achieved there, both as a captain and a player and specifically leading a special bunch of players to promotion and CB40 success.

"Losing my best friend Tom in June was indescribably painful. We were extremely close but ultimately I know I will emerge from this awful tragedy with renewed strength and purpose.

"I am delighted to be returning to Sussex, a club where I was previously very happy. I would like to thank Mark Robinson, his coaching staff, the players, management and board at Sussex for welcoming me back so warmly. "There is nothing like feeling wanted to raise spirits and I fully intend to repay the confidence they have shown in me."

Sussex have released left-arm seamer Naveed Arif. The 30-year-old, Pakistan born but qualified to play as a non-overseas player through his Danish wife, signed for the club ahead of the 2011 season, but had not featured in the first team since July. "It is always sad when any player leaves us and it is no different with Naveed," Robinson said. "We would like to thank him for his wholehearted contribution both on and off the pitch and we wish him well in the future."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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